Archbishop Nichols has recently claimed that “the basic safety net” of welfare has been “torn apart”. Has the Archbishop read any of the statements from DWP, or studied the figures from the Treasury?
If he did so he would find that welfare spending has gone up under this governemnt, despite the substantial rise in the number of people in work, the best kind of welfare. Total welfare and state pensions spending is up by more than £26 billion a year. Welfare spending excluding penions and Jobseekers is up in real terms 2010-2014. The total spend is over £220 billion, and the welfare spend on people of working age is £94 billion. How does this amount to the end of the safety net?
It is disappointing that people in positions of authority who have benefitted from a good education should be so sloppy with their words and so remiss not to read the numbers. If the Archbishop has some better way to spend the £220 billion then that could be a useful contribution to the debate. If he really believes that spending a few million more than the £220 billion could make a lot of difference he should tell us how and why.
What is so frustrating about his type of comment is it gets a lot of airtime for a complete misrepresentation of what the government is trying to do and what it is actually doing. The government – like Labour before it – wants people in a relatively rich country to be able to live to a decent standard. It wants to help those with state money who cannot help themselves. It wants to encourage and assist more people into work so they can enjoy a better living standard without claiming on their neighbours, the taxpayers.
It is both false to imply the government wants people to suffer, and false to assume there is a further large pot of money which the state mysteriously can posses which it could spend to better effect than the £220 billion a year it is already spending.
It would be helpful if clergy gave better and clearer moral guidance to us and to their Churches on the big moral issues that come up in Parliament. If they have good ideas on welfare reform then they should state them with the detail to back them up. It would also be interesting to hear how much of the wealth of the Church, accumulated over the centuries, the Archbishop thinks they should share with the poor. They might also like to comment on their view of equal opportunities for women and the role of women in the workplace.